Yesterday marked the second day of minicamp for the Falcons, and Mike Smith remarked after practice that he was pleased with the progress the team made from Tuesday to Wednesday. It was overcast on Wednesday, so while it was still oppressively hot and humid, the break from the sun was welcomed by the team and by me, quite honestly.
Minicamp is largely about conditioning and technique. These are, by NFL rule, not padded practices, and there is no contact allowed, which does impact how much we can discern about how players are developing. But all in all, it was a good day at practice for the Falcons.
Dominique Davis still has issues with accuracy, and I noticed that Sean Renfree works through his reads really, really slowly and deliberately. And guess what? The Falcons traded Akeem Dent for T.J. Yates, and I have to assume Yates will be the favorite to win the backup position, so all of this is kind of moot right now.
I spent a lot of time watching the offensive line today, so I didn't put as much focus on the skill positions or defensive line. I can tell you that Bernard Reedy, the undrafted free agent out of the University of Toledo, continued to impress with his speed today. Levine Toilolo had a pretty good day, including a nice catch on a Matt Ryan pass that would have been too high for anyone else.
On defense, both Dwight Lowery and Dezmen Southward had a good day of practice. Southward had a nice pick on a ball tipped by rookie linebacker Marcus Spruill. Javier Arenas also had an interception during practice. Desmond Trufant did not practice as a precaution, and William Moore was excused from practice for personal reasons according to Smitty after practice. Paul Worrilow continued to exhibit leadership on the field. Tyson Jackson is really, really athletic for his size. His movements are really fluid and smooth. The same goes for Rashede Hageman.
The offensive line hit the field at the start of practice with a lot of enthusiasm, and it seemed to carry them through the day. There was noticeable effort on all of the drills. Sam Baker seems to have a chip on his shoulder, and Lamar Holmes' effort to get better is obvious.
Jonathan Asamoah looks really comfortable out there. Gabe Carimi actually impressed me Wednesday, too. In drills against defensive linemen, Carimi and rookie Jake Matthews absolutely blew up Stansley Maponga. (Don't fret about Maponga, it was two on one.) Carimi has really good lateral quickness, too. The athleticism that made him a first round pick is evident, so it will be interesting if that translates to anything on the field.
And Matthews is coming along really nicely. He's adapting to the speed of the game, he's fine tuning his technique, and he looks solid.
Hawley has looked really prepared at center. Interestingly, the team also is cross-training Mike Johnson at center. Mike Smith said after practice that they always knew Johnson could play center, and this team has made versatility along the line a priority, so it's not terribly surprising.
Things got a little chippy at the end of practice with a minor altercation to end the day. After practice, Coach Smith said that while he didn't necessarily condone fighting, he did appreciate that intensity. When asked if that's a quality he wants to see in his offensive line, he said yes, and said he would also like to see that in the rest of the team. Surely fans agree.
Coach Smith was asked again about Hard Knocks, and Smitty said he is very familiar and comfortable with the process, having been involved in the inaugural season when he was on the staff in Baltimore, the third season of the series in Jacksonville (which was produced by NFL Network and called Inside Training Camp: Jaguars Summer), and to a lesser extent last season during combined processes with the Bengals. Smitty said that the Hard Knocks crew is currently there shooting and it hasn't been an issue, and I can confirm that the crew is really unobtrusive.
Robert Alford also spoke to the media after practice. He said the team is ready to "shock the world" this season. Alford said he is feeling much more comfortable in the playbook and is now able to help mentor some of the younger players, or at least point them toward William Moore, who is their leader in the defensive backfield. Alford said that the defense, with so many new additions this offseason, is coming together well as a team.
I'll be back at practice this morning and will have an update in the afternoon. Share your thoughts on minicamp so far in the comments!